Saturday, September 18, 2010

“…the spectacle is probably without a parallel in the war.”

Cavalryman William Forse Scott of the 4th Iowa Veteran Volunteer Cavalry wrote that in reference to the great charge by Union troopers at the Battle of Mine Creek on 25 October 1864. This battle (also known as the Battle of the Osage, or the Battle of the Marais des Cygnes, or the Battle of Little Osage) was fought in Kansas near the conclusion of General Sterling Price’s raid into Missouri. It is considered to be one of the largest cavalry battles of the conflict, and certainly it ranks as a battle with one of the most lopsided outcomes.

On Labor Day weekend, my mom and I went on a day trip to the Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site which is near Pleasanton, Kansas. A small visitor’s center is on the battle site, and I spent a pleasant hour or so walking an interpretive trail. According to their website, the Mine Creek Battlefield Foundation has been successful in acquiring an additional 210 acres of battlefield property.

Two brigades of well armed Union troopers managed to catch two John F. Fagan’s and John S. Marmaduke’s cavalry divisions as they attempted to guard a ford being used by a supply train crossing Mine Creek. Union cavalrymen, according to Scott, charged across “ground [that] was entirely open and covered with prairie grass” (p. 332). The sight must have indeed been a “spectacle” as reported by Scott. Here is a photograph of the open field looking from the Confederate position toward the Union lines:

It is not difficult to imagine a cavalry charge across that field!

According to the interpretive walking trail brochure, the Confederate force suffered approximately 1,160 casualties (260 estimated killed, 300 estimated wounded, and 600 estimated captured) out of about 7,000 men present. Some Confederate prisoners were executed by Union troopers because they were wearing Union uniforms. The Union force numbered about 2,800 men and suffered a grand total of 90 casualties (8 killed, 80 wounded, and 2 missing).

The main source for this battle remains Lumir F. Buresh’s book, October 25th and The Battle Of Mine Creek, first published in 1977 and reprinted by the Mine Creek Battlefield Foundation in 2000.

Note: The quotes from William Forse Scott are from his book, The Story Of A Cavalry Regiment: The Career Of The Fourth Iowa Veteran Volunteers: From Kansas to Georgia, 1861-1865 (1893; reprinted Iowa City: Camp Pope Bookshop, 1992).

No comments:

Post a Comment